Posted by: Abrahim | 28/01/2009

Hanan Conroy

In Search of Peace

by

Hanan Conroy

“For them is the abode of peace with their Lord.

He will be their Protecting Friend because of what they used to do.”

Qur’an 6:127

I grew up in a white working class town surrounded by white working class attitudes. I am a fifth-generation Australian with mostly English and Irish heritage.

As a child I attended a Pentecostal, Charismatic church where I learned that salvation was accepting the blood of Jesus and receiving the Holy Ghost (talking in tongues.) I was baptised there and “received the Holy Spirit”. The members of my church were good, honest people with strong values, yet I never felt comfortable there. I was never felt at ease with lifting my hands into the air and singing and dancing about. It seemed to be irreverent somehow.

When I was eleven I was isolated. I had no friends and I was teased at school. My home life, also, was less than perfect. I started suffering from a deep depression that would stay with me for years, having mood swings from deep, suicidal depression to euphoria. This was a blessing and a curse – curse because sometimes I became so depressed that I wanted to die (and I tried a few times to take my own life); a blessing because it created a soul hunger which would eventually lead me to Allah.

As a teenager I noticed that Australians, generally, had everything materially that anyone could ever need or want. But there seemed to be something lacking. We seemed to be living in a spiritual void … soul poverty! I was told that I needed a dream and that dream was to look beautiful; buy my own house and car; get drunk a lot; sleep with lots of men, and then settle down to a family and career. But what did I really want? My moods were so crazy that all I wanted was Peace.

At school I was taught the evolution theory. It had nearly destroyed my belief in God. Yet when I was in my bleakest and most despairing of moods, I would always cry to Him for help. Out of a soul hunger I became an extremist Christian. My best friend and I would spend lengthy hours debating the merits of many things, usually coming up with the idea that everything that didn’t fit into our dogma was evil. I became disillusioned with my own fanaticism and left Christianity behind. I decided that Jesus wasn’t God, but a great Man.

I decided, after a while, to become a Buddhist. I was attracted to the ideas of tolerance, compassion, defeating ego and non-attachment to worldly things. Then spiritual hunger led me to search for God in Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Astrology, New Age, Pop Psychology, Shamanism and Witchcraft.

Pop Psychology taught me that all my problems were my mother’s fault. New Age taught me that all knowledge was within me, that I knew what was best at all times. My higher self controlled all things, I believed. If a truck hit me then it was to do with the doings of my subconscious, as a result of “negative thinking.” (So much for defeating ego!) I became self-worshipping, self-obsessed and self-righteous. Selfish.

Yet I still wanted to look into every religion that I could – except Islam, I told myself, since it was so terrible to women. And yet the sound of Muslim prayers would feel like a wave of purity and joy washing through me.

During my quest I fell in love with a beautiful man and moved in with him. We had a secret wedding – just the two of us where we promised each other that we would be together until our “souls paths separate” – meaning when I re-incarnated I wanted to be with him again. We had three beautiful boys together and moved to Byron Shire to be closer to the New Age thing.

Our life together, however, has been difficult. He had chronic backache and I had chronic mood swings. We lived in poverty (of the Australian variety, not severe like in the third world). My hatred towards my family left me isolated and lonely.

For a while we became Hare Krishna’s. They have the most delicious food. Yet they worshipped a statue of Krishna and for some reason a basil plant. (No matter how much I love Pesto I still can’t bring myself to

worship it). I was a vegetarian, yet when I was pregnant with my second child, I craved steak, so much for not eating sacred cows! I also craved olives. Praise be to Allah! I went and found some Olive and Tomato dip from some Muslims at the local markets. I ate it all myself. I stopped going to the Hare Krishna farm. I was uncomfortable with the idolatry (and the guilt over the steak) even though they offered good reasons for it.

In the midst of poverty I was self-pitying. Then I received, what I now realise to be, a message from Allah, telling me to go and count everything that had been given to me. To my disappointment, everything I had was given to me. “Hey wait a sec…” I thought, “EVERYTHING I have has been given to me”. I stopped feeling impoverished and started feeling blessed.

I started asking questions about my New Age beliefs. Could I really have that much control over a truck that hit me? If I could, then it meant I was omnipotent and could control all things. I decided that I had a very limited power to affect anything in the universe. If something happened then it just happened! It was easier to accept things as they were than trying to control everything with my mind.

What about being carefree? The idea of “Everything’s OK as long as it doesn’t cause suffering”? One individual behaving badly might not upset society too much. What happens if one woman gets cosmetic surgery? Nothing much. What happens if many women get cosmetic surgery because of personal decisions? If cosmetic surgery were to become the norm, then all women would be under much pressure to conform. Maybe there should be a group standard of morality to live by, I mused.

And what about the drugs that had destroyed the lives of many hippies? They were not necessarily any better off than the “religious types” they love to condemn. Hippies get angry; they can be abusive and intolerant just like any other human. As a hippie I tended to not do much but start things I never finished and daydream a lot. Surely something can be said for self-discipline? And putting Self first just made me selfish and obnoxious. Maybe putting a greater power before myself would help me to realise that others are important too! Hating my family just made me lonely. I forgave my poor mother for being human. Motherhood gave me an appreciation of the hard work my mother did to raise me. Maybe respecting parents wasn’t such a bad idea! And this, I was to find, was true: “ Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour” Qur’an 17:23.

If you have no morals to live by, then you can question the validity of any value: It’s OK to do scientific experiments on aborted embryos because it helps people. But what about the other problems it causes? Religions at least have standard morals. And why did Religions outlast political fashions and ideals such as Communism? Why were so many people following religion if it was such a terrible thing? Surely it would have some merit.

If EVERYTHING was given to me then the only thing I really had was my freedom to choose God or deny God.

By the time son no. 3 was born, we had returned to church. Still I did not feel comfortable there. I didn’t want to lift my hands to worship Jesus. Was he God or Man? And how would I be sure that the Evolution Theory wasn’t real? And jumping and shouting seemed to be an irreverent way to worship God.

Thanks be to Allah I found a good homoeopath who treated my depression. My black moods lifted by 90%. I could think clearer than I had in years. So with a clear mind I discovered Islam. This I did as follows:

When the terrorist attacks on September 11 occurred I suddenly found myself going to the library looking for books on Islam. I was curious about this religion that everyone was talking about.

In May of this year I signed up for a course called “Towards Understanding Islam” run by the same Muslims who made that yummy olive and tomato dip. When they explained what Islam was, I felt as if a

Mack truck covered in pillows had hit me! Wow! I learned the truth about Islam. How it values peace and equality and doesn’t treat women badly at all. I learned the real reasons for women wearing loose and unrevealing garments. I loved the understanding of God and the idea of Submission. It felt like I had finally found the peace I had been longing for. But I wouldn’t admit it, not yet!

I found myself looking up Islam on the Internet, which is where I came across the Islam-Australia (www.islam-australia.net) website after staying awake late one night arguing with my sister about religion. I decided to ask them for help. My sister had wanted to know how Islam could give me a personal relationship with God? The answer: Muslims pray five times a day, giving a direct and personal relationship with God.

My sister and I argued about the divinity of Jesus, and Islam-Australia helped me to figure out the question for myself by sending me a book and a video on the subject. (Jesus is a Prophet). They also sent me a wonderful book called “The Evolution Deceit” by Harun Yahya. I was impressed by the scientific way he handled the subject. Thank Allah I no longer believe in Evolution.

Islam-Australia also helped me with the question I asked them about the Prophethood of Muhammad. Was he the last of the prophets? Yes he was: “O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example, the Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray.”

(from the Last Sermon of the Prophet)

Meanwhile, one of my teachers from the course met me whilst I was out shopping. She asked me if I wanted to come to a ladies group on Fridays. I’m so glad I attended. I was the only one who went for many weeks. It gave me a chance to observe the Muslim way of life up close. Funny, but they didn’t have big teeth and claws and a garage full of explosives! They were generous and kind and fed me lots of olive and tomato dip. I witnessed prayers first hand. I also found that they never brought up religion unless I asked first. For all their “orthodox” look, I found them to be more compassionate and tolerant than many “peace loving hippies” I had known.

At some point I became restless, and knew that I wanted to become a Muslim. I had witnessed a woman saying her Shahadah and decided that I wanted to say mine. So, six days later, on 31st July 2003 I said Shahadah , surrounded by love and good will. I felt as if I had finally come home!

Islam has everything the soul needs for nourishment. It has everything an individual and a family and a community needs. It’s holistic, and down to earth, and spiritual – all at the same time. It is humbling. My ego doesn’t like me saying “Allahu Akbar” when I pray. What! I’m not the centre of the universe? No, Allah is. At the end of every prayer I thank Allah for bringing me to him.

It has been two months since I have become a Muslim. I am more grounded and more centred, and by far less selfish. I am happy. I am at peace.


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